A turn-of-the-century private investigator puts on her bloomers and goes sleuthing.
To protect her from the Hudson Dusters, a notorious New York gang, police captain Daniel Sullivan sends Molly Murphy upstate undercover as Miss Gaffney, distant cousin to Senator Barney Flynn, to debunk the claim of the Sorenson Sisters, who’ve convinced the senator’s wife Theresa that they can make the soul of her son Brendan, kidnapped five years ago, appear at a séance. The Sisters, of course, are frauds, but Molly is more interested in uncovering who kidnapped young Brendan, because it’s apparent, at least to her, that the chauffeur was set up to take the fall and died for his trouble. Theresa’s companion, her cousin Clara, and her sister Belinda come under suspicion. So do Rimes, the senator’s political aide; Derek, his personal assistant; Roland Van Gelder, the impoverished son of his political rival; Soames, the ubiquitous butler; and a plethora of domestics. There’s croquet on the lawn, tea on the veranda, senatorial groping, bicycle jaunts to the village, a push off a cliff, two poisonings and Molly’s sighting of Justin Hartley, the bounder she thought she’d killed when he tried to rape her back in Ireland.
For good measure, Bowen (For the Love of Mike, 2003, etc.) tosses in a typhoid scare, an illegitimacy, the Black Hand, the Orphan Train, enough upstairs/downstairs door-slamming for a French farce and her heroine’s love life, overdone as a Victorian valentine.